Fri, 11 Apr 2003

Decentralization and corruption

I refer to the article published in The Jakarta Post on April 8, titled Decentralization in urgent need of major overhaul.

It is sometimes amazing to observe the ills and shortcomings that are attributed to the current decentralization policy. The above-mentioned article is another example of this tendency to argue that decentralization has resulted in widespread corruption in the regions.

Corruption had been identified as a key problem within Indonesia's public sector way before the current decentralization policy was embarked upon. Why should regional administrations be better (ie. less corrupt) than their role models at national level? Indeed, by moving a considerable proportion of public funds to the regions the opportunities for corrupt behavior have increased at regional level, just as the opportunities for corruption have decreased at national level. The current systems of supervision and control are clearly not functioning as well as they should.

However, they did not succeed in weeding out corruption at the national level, either. Let's be clear about it: Decentralization does not cause corruption, it only changes the locations where corruption occurs. Whether small-scale corruption at the regional level is easier to eradicate than large-scale corruption at national level is a matter of debate. However, it seems plausible that corrupt behavior at regional level is much easier to detect than its counterpart in the corridors of central government.

Eradication of corruption does not require a major overhaul of decentralization. It requires a major overhaul of the Indonesian public sector.

RAINER ROHDEWOHLD, Deputy Leader, Decentralization, Policy Team, GTZ Support for Decentralization Measures, Ministry of Home Affairs Jakarta